Friday, April 5, 2013

Qatar!

My spring trip to Qatar was a great experience! It was really neat to experience a whole different culture. This was also my first time to ever leave North America and definitely won't be my last!

TAMUQ

These are all pictures from the Texas A&M campus at Qatar. Their campus is so much nicer than the main campus in College Station! There is beautiful landscaping, fountains, and courtyards everywhere. Also, the entire interior of the building is marble. 

 TAMUQ in Arabic

This is where the commencement ceremonies are held.

Campus courtyards

Main entrance to TAMUQ

Neat architecture


Texas A&M University at Qatar only offers four undergraduate degrees in chemical, petroleum, mechanical, and electrical engineering. All students, faculty, and classrooms are in the same building. There are less than 500 students enrolled!

Doha

Doha is the capital of Qatar. It is where we stayed and pretty much where everything happens. It is currently in a phase of rapid development. Some people compare it to Dubai.

The Doha skyline

 The Doha skyline 

Boats in the harbor

Boats and the skyline


Downtown

Downtown

Skyline and the bay

 

Souq Waqif

A souq is a traditional marketplace. There are many restaurants and shops with a variety of,well, everything!
 It looks like a scene from Aladdin.

Jenny and I eating at a Yemen restaurant within the Souq. No shoes, no chairs, no silverware, no problem


 

Dune Bashing

Dune-bashing is something the locals do for fun. It is driving over sand dunes at high speeds in off road vehicles. Really fun! This is out in the dessert, about 30 miles from Doha.





Their definition of an "off-road" vehicle is a Lexus SUV!

Camels!

During our trip out to the dessert, we stopped at a beach and rode camels! So much fun.

Camels


 
Me riding a camel!


Jumping off sand dunes

Acculturation

Just for fun, Jenny and I dressed up in the traditional Qatari women dress. The black robes are called abayas.

 

Other Fancy Things

So Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world due to their large oil and gas reserves. Therefore, everything is very nice! Here are a few random pictures.

We flew Qatar Airways. This was the dinner we were served in economy class! It's lamb meat balls, vegetables, bread, dessert, and complimentary beverages.

More fancy food from Souq Waqif

Staircase in the Musem of Islamic Art

 City Center Mall - 5 stories!

 Yachts in the harbor

Fancy cars

Inside the Villagio shopping mall

Hotel chandeliers

More fancy meals!

Roadside landscaping

Sorry there are a million pictures! It was a really great experience. I learned so much more about the Arab culture and would love to return to Qatar in the future.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Back to the Grind

So school has been back in session for almost two months now. Once again, I have a full semester of difficult classes! Here are a few of the courses I'm taking:
  • SENG 312 – System Safety Engineering: Application of system safety analytical techniques to the design process; emphasis on the management of a system safety or product safety program; relationship with other disciplines such as reliability, maintainability, human factors, and product liability applica­tions.
  • BICH 410 – Comprehensive Biochemistry I: Structure, function, and chemistry of proteins and carbohydrates; kinetics, mechanisms and regulation of enzymes; metabolism of carbohydrates.
  • CHEN 426 – Chemical Engineering Plant Design: Integration of material from other chemi­cal engineering courses with applications to the design of plants and processes representative of the chemical and related process industries.
  • CHEN 464 – Chemical Engineering Kinetics: Introduction to kinetics of reactions and appli­cation of fundamental principles to design and operation of commercial reactors.
  • CHEN 414 – Chemical Engineering Lab I: Laboratory work based on fluid dynamics and heat transfer.
  • KINE 199 – Kinesiology:Canoeing 
The safety class will count as credit towards a safety certificate (similar to a "focus") that I am pursuing. Biochemistry is an additional advanced chemistry credit that I am required to have. Then comes my regular coursework of chemical engineering classes, Kinetics has definitely been the most difficult so far! Luckily, I was able to squeeze in another fun kinesiology credit. It's, canoeing this semester!

Senior Design - Qatar Collaboration

Every engineering major takes a big senior design course at the end of their degree plan. It can easily be thought of as a huge final exam of your past 3-4 years in college. As a chemical engineer, my senior design project consists of designing a chemical plant, completely from scratch, from the ground up. So as you can imagine, I am having to apply everything I've learned from my previous courses (fluid dynamics, heat and mass transfer, material science, process economics, etc.) to complete this project. Typically, this project is done in teams of 4-5 members with your fellow classmates. I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in a Qatar Collaboration group for the semester.

The Qatar Collaboration is where we do this senior design project but with students from the Texas A&M campus in Qatar on a team. So my team consists of 2 students from the College Station campus (myself and my friend, Jenny) and 3 students from the Qatar campus.

 Senior Design - Qatar Collaboration Team
From left to right: me, Sally (Qatar), Jenny (USA), Hana and Anam (Qatar)

The Qatar students came to College Station back in January for a few days to meet us, visit America, and begin working on the project. Since their visit, we have had meetings over video conferencing 2-3 times a week to continue working on the project.

Our project this semester is to design a methanol plant. We are given a required amount of methanol to produce and the composition of a given feedstock. Everything in between, the reactions, separations, and purifications of the process, is completely up to us to design. We have to figure out how to get from point A to point B, design and size all the equipment, piping, pumps, and evaluate the economics of the plant. Overall, it is a very in depth project. Hopefully, all of the hard work will pay off!

So from the sounds of it, being in the Qatar Collaboration group might not sound like so much of a privilege. It is definitely an increase in the amount of time I have to dedicate to this project to ensure progress. Additionally, I've been in teams locally where its hard enough to arrange meetings and get things done when the people live here, in College Station. But so far, things have been progressing smoothly. I think I have a great group of people on my team. Everyone has been pulling their own weight and meeting their project deadlines. While the time difference, 9 hours, makes for some awkward meeting times, its all been a great experience so far. Which leads me to my next point...

Spring Break

As part of the Qatar Collaboration project, I will be traveling to Doha to continue working on my senior design project, and visit the Middle East! So Qatar is a tiny country that hangs off the eastern side of Saudi Arabia. It is completely bordered by Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.
Since this is an education related trip, it is completely funded by Texas A&M. My travel, accommodations, and food is all being taken care of by the university. So I have to dedicate a little more time to my senior design project in exchange for an all expenses paid trip to Qatar? I'll take it!
So I'll be spending my Spring Break in Qatar, working on my senior design project, riding a camel, and learning a whole lot more about the Middle Eastern culture. I'm really looking forward to my trip and I will be sure to take plenty of pictures!!

Spring Break in Qatar: March 8-15
I'm not so sure about this direct, 14 hour flight from Houston...

Winter Break

Man do I have a lot to catch up on! Well let's pick up where I left off, just before the winter break...

Just before Christmas
Luckily, I was able to do quite a bit of traveling over the holidays and spend sometime with just about everyone. I spent the week before Christmas visiting Caleb's family in Winnsboro. This was the first time I'd seen Caleb's grandfather since his open heart surgery. It was great to spend time with him again not knowing if he was going to pull through back in October. I'm not a doctor, but I'd say he's recovering very well. He's staying at his home again and is able to get out and about on his own to the grocery store. He is a bit slower than he was before the surgery and uses a cane now, but I'd definitely say he's a strong old man!
Winnsboro also had a white Christmas this past year. Caleb's parents live on a lake. Here are some beautiful pictures taken just outside their front door.





Christmas
I spent the actual week of the Christmas holiday visiting my father in San Antonio. It's always fun spending time with my little brothers and sister. Young kids bring a whole new meaning to the holiday! We spent the majority of the time just hanging around the house and playing. I also made and decorated Christmas cookies with them.


Unfortunately, my father had to work on Christmas day. So since he was resting up on Christmas Eve, Matt and I got to play "Santa Clause"! It was interesting being on the other side of the gig after all these years... but I'd say everything went smoothly and the kids didn't notice a thing ;)

Colorado Christmas and New Year's
The last of my travels over the Christmas break was a trip to visit my other parents in their new Colorado home. 

 
It was a long, 13 hour drive from San Antonio, but Matt, Caleb, and I made it up to Pagosa Springs in one day! It was a fun week filled with the traditional family festivities of food, poker, and drinking. We also went skiing for a day up at Wolf Creek Pass. It was Caleb's first time skiing in over 8 years, but I'd say he kept up just fine.


I would say the highlight of our Colorado trip was sledding. Yes, sledding! Even though all the "kids" are grown and in their 20's, we had the most fun sledding, Texas style. So initially, we started out with pulling each other behind the 4-wheeler in some store-bought, plastic sleds.




But after a few runs, the plastic sleds broke. So we got even more creative and used a piece of plywood!




The plywood "sled" proved to be a lot more durable than the store-bought plastic ones. We even got a few stares from the neighbors as we drove by! I guess we'll always be kids at heart.

Overall, I had a great Winter Break filled with family, good food, and great company. Sadly, breaks are never long enough and it was back to school for me.